Airport review: Zurich Airport, Switzerland

THE FLIGHT

Zurich to Singapore, Flight LX 176. This Swiss International Airlines-operated flight is code-shared with Singapore Airlines (I have an onward flight with Singapore to Australia).

THE ARRIVAL

Zurich is Switzerland's largest airport, serving the country's largest city. Currently it reaches 200 destinations in 67 countries. I'd flown two hours from Lisbon, checking my luggage all the way through to Sydney. So I wasn't expecting any problems. However Zurich has three terminals, confusingly called A, B/D and E.

If you thought Brexit was baffling, wait until you hear about Schengen. Switzerland isn't part of the European Community, but (like Portugal where I'd flown from) it's one of 26 European states in the Schengen Area which have abolished all passport and border controls between them. Terminal A (where I'd arrived) deals only with flights to and from the Schengen Area while Terminal E (where I'm flying from) deals only with flights to and from non-Schengen countries, which requires me going through passport control again though I was in transit and my luggage had gone through unopposed.

By the time I arrive at my gate – E35 – I'm thoroughly bamboozled. On the plus side, the terminals are linked by an driverless train that seems determined to gain entry into the Guinness Book of Records, speeding through the tunnel under the runway in just three minutes.

THE LOOK

Opened in 2003, Terminal E is what you'd expect of Zurich: sleek, airy, metallic-and-glass. My main gripe is an absence of staffed information booths, lengthy walks with no moving pavements, and a surprising lack of good signage.

CHECK-IN

Of course, any Australian checking in at Zurich for a single flight will just go through the same passport and security controls without needing to have ever heard the word Schengen.The quickest way of getting from Zurich city centre to the airport is by train from Zurich's main station. According to the city tourism website, zuerich.com, it should take only 10 minutes.

SECURITY

As a transit passenger, I didn't have to go through it. But fellow passengers told me it was as efficient as a proverbial Swiss watch.

FOOD AND DRINK

Did you know the Swiss produce excellent wines (from the French-speaking northern vineyards north-west of Lausanne, not the German-speaking areas around Zurich)? So you'll have something to wash down all those cheeses, charcuterie and chocolate on offer. Being Switzerland, it's not cheap, but there's a world of cuisine on offer.

RETAIL THERAPY

Apple Watch now sells more of its multiple versions each year than all the handmade Swiss brands put together. Yet if you can afford a Swiss watch, this is where you'll find both genuine choice and the genuine article. Virtually every other Swiss brand beyond my price range also has its own enticing boutique.

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KILLING TIME

The airport is blessed with expansive outdoor observation decks – perfect for tiring out young children before the oncoming flight as they watch the planes come in and out. If they're older kids, see it you can get them to identify whether the planes are from Schengen countries.

ONE MORE THING

You may bump into Roger Federer; it's the airport he uses most often on his way to and from Grand Slams.

THE VERDICT

Schengen aside (and to be fair, the airport has an online guide about what to expect if you're switching between compliant and non-compliant countries), it's far better than any major American, British or Australian airport coping with this many planes from this many countries a day.

OUR RATING OUT OF FIVE

★★★½

See also: World's best airport for 2019 named

See also: Airport review: The LAX terminal that's not just good – it's great

Read more of Traveller's airport reviews here.

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